‘His Dark Materials’ Season 1, Episode 2 Recap: “The Idea of North”


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Last week’s episode of His Dark Materials set up the storyline nicely, and this week’s episode promised to have more action. The episode rejoins Lyra and Mrs. Coulter at the end of their journey to London. Mrs. Coulter lives in an apartment, in a formidable looking building. Lyra cannot believe the luxury which she finds herself surrounded in and does what we’d all like to do and flops onto her enormous new bed. However, we are reminded that Mrs. Coulter likely isn’t all she seems to be, when she locks the elevator door with both a key and a code. We are also reassured that Lyra hasn’t completely forgotten about Roger, when she says to her daemon Pan that this will also be Roger’s home once he is found.

Lyra’s life of luxury is then put into stark contrast when we rejoin Roger, who is shoved into a dark, damp-looking room filled with lots of other children sitting around tables. His one shred of happiness is that he recognizes Billy Costa, the missing Gyptian child, and runs to hug him.

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Lyra and Mrs. Coulter have breakfast on the rooftop before a busy day, where they discuss heights. Lyra reminisces about growing up on the rooftops of Jordan College, whereas Mrs. Coulter says she has always felt uneasy about heights as she always has the slight urge to jump. As if we need another reason to find her ominous. The two then leave for lunch at the Arctic Institute. We are reminded of how young Lyra is as she runs excitedly from exhibit to exhibit and is filled with awe that Mrs. Coulter knows explorers that Lyra has read about in books. At breakfast, Mrs. Coulter reassured Lyra that she has her best people looking for Roger, but over lunch, they get into a disagreement over Lyra wanting to help with the search. Mrs. Coulter gives Lyra a speech about why Lyra must trust her, and then seeks to distract her by introducing her to colleagues.

Meanwhile, the Gyptians are planning to raid a building where they suspect the children are being kept. Lookouts have been tailing a van they suspect of transporting the children. They mention that the Gobblers are obviously well protected and funded, so they need to strike quickly and with force.

There are disagreements between Lyra and Pan. Pan doesn’t like that Mrs. Coulter is asking Lyra to change both her looks and her personality. However, Lyra argues that Mrs. Coulter is nice and the only one who has believed that Lyra could be extraordinary. Lyra then goes on to ignore Pan when he wakes her up in the night to tell her that there are banging noises in the room. Lyra sleepily says that it is just the pipes and throws a pillow at Pan when he won’t let it rest.

The same night, the Gyptians break into a dilapidated house and search it for the missing children, but they are left empty handed. The room is the same one that Roger was shoved into earlier, but it is now empty. The Gyptians recognize Billy Costa’s sweater and take it as evidence that they are on the right track. We are left with the sense that the Gobblers are one step ahead and have moved the children.

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Back at Jordan College in Oxford, the Master is meeting with Lord Boreal from the Magisterium. Lord Boreal wants to examine the head that Asriel brought back from the North to understand where the man has been and if he has crossed worlds. The Master denies the request, as the head has already been treated and placed in the crypt. He says that talk of crossing worlds is heresy. Lord Boreal in turn mentions that they are aware that the college is funding Asriel to go back to the North in a threatening manner.

Mrs. Coulter is helping Lyra study physics when she reprimands Lyra for not concentrating. Lyra once more mentions her wish to help in the search for Roger and is rebuked again. In retaliation, Lyra takes the opportunity in discussing charged particles to bring up what she knows about Dust, to make a point that she knows more than Mrs. Coulter thinks. However, she realizes that she has said more than she should when she sees Mrs. Coulter’s stony-faced reaction.

The Gyptians return to the house boat and find Ma Costa claiming to Tony that they are on a wild goose chase, and that Billy is probably still lost in Oxford and looking for her. The Gyptians present her with Billy’s sweater as evidence, and she breaks down crying. She is reassured by their promises to get Billy back. Meanwhile, another Gyptian offers Tony a chance to be part of their next plan.

Inside the Magisterium, Father MacPhail and Cardinal Sturrock discuss the General Oblation Board causing problems. They mention that the Gyptians haven’t found the children yet, as the Oblation Board move the children frequently, confirming that it is the Magisterium taking the children. However, they say that the board must control ‘it’ or lose everything. We’re given clear indicators that these are the bad guys. Never trust anyone whose soul is represented by a reptile or an insect.

Once again, Pan wakes Lyra in the night because the banging has started again. This time, Lyra takes him seriously and listens at the grates, following the sounds out of her room and down the corridor. It leads her to the door of Mrs. Coulter’s study, which she has been told she should not enter. Inside, she finds Mrs. Coulter’s golden monkey daemon but not Mrs. Coulter, who then appears at the opposite end of the corridor. Lyra is very confused, as daemons should not be able to be that far away from their human without causing them both pain. Mrs. Coulter dismisses it as Lyra being tired. Once Lyra is safely back in bed, she slaps her daemon around the head.

Lord Boreal decides to takes matters into his own hands and goes looking in the crypt for the head. He finds the skull but says that Asriel lied and that the skull does not belong to the explorer. He then wanders into what looks like an old outbuilding and disappears through a window. We are suddenly transported to modern day Oxford, complete with buses and taxis rather than airships. He has clearly not been there in a while, as he peels two parking tickets off his car, climbs in, and sends someone a text.

Mrs. Coulter also receives two visitors from the Magisterium. She asks Lyra to stay in her room, but we all know Lyra isn’t going to do that. Lyra eavesdrops as Father MacPhail praises Mrs. Coulter for her work but warns her that if her activities draw too much attention, they won’t protect her. Lyra is unfortunately caught eavesdropping by the other Magisterium member, and this brings a sharp close to the discussions. Mrs. Coulter reprimands Lyra and sends her to her room. Pan reminds her that they have promised to keep the alethiometer secret from Mrs. Coulter and the Magisterium, so for some reason, Lyra decides that the best idea is to keep it on her person at all times in a shoulder bag. Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter is furious that they are threatening her Dust research. The man confirms that they will sacrifice anything to remain in power.

Mrs. Coulter apologizes, and Lyra taunts her by saying she lost control and was still angry. The argument reaches a climax when Mrs Coulter’s daemon attacks Pan, causing both him and Lyra physical pain. Mrs. Coulter’s true nature comes out as she says that if Lyra continues to behave in a vulgar way, then they will have confrontations. But she will always win. Lyra yells that her uncle won’t let Mrs. Coulter treat her this way. They both fall into a stunned silence when Mrs. Coulter yells that he has never done anything for Lyra and that he is a failure of a man and a failure of a father. Lyra is completely shocked by the revelation that Asriel is her father and asks about her mother, to which Mrs. Coulter responds that it could be anyone, as he was always had a woman on his arm. Lyra returns to her room where she begs the alethiometer for help, turning the dials randomly in the hopes that it will work. She then kicks it away in frustration when nothing happens, but unseen to Lyra, the hands begin to move.

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In modern day Oxford, Lord Boreal meets with a man named Thomas, who he has been paying for unknown services. Lord Boreal asks Thomas if he has seen the explorer who has an osprey for a daemon. Lord Boreal suspects that he has come through a window into modern day Oxford after he was investigating multiple worlds. Thomas has not seen the man, but questions whether there are multiple windows.

Lyra and Pan suspect that Mrs. Coulter has never had any intention of searching for Roger. While Lyra is supposed to be studying, Mrs. Coulter leaves the building, locking the elevator behind her. Lyra takes the opportunity to use the vents to get into Mrs. Coulter’s study, which was also locked. Whilst in the vents, Lyra finds evidence that Mrs. Coulter’s daemon has been in the vents spying on her and Pan. This also provides evidence that Mrs. Coulter and her daemon can be further apart than is normal. They break into the office and find letters from the General Oblation Board and blueprints for something called “The Station,” which is built in the North. The blueprints seem to show a human and daemon kept in separate boxes with some sort of blade between them.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Coulter visits the missing children, including Roger and Billy. She tells them that they are all going on a voyage to the North. She says that their families will miss them, and they can all write letters to let them know what is happening. She watches them all write to their families and takes the bundle, promptly tossing them all in the furnace as soon as she has left the room.

Mrs. Coulter returns to the apartment, and it is a race against time for Lyra to return everything back to where she found it, climb back through the grates, and get back to her desk before the elevator reaches the floor. She manages to do it in the nick of time and has Mrs Coulter believing that she hasn’t left her desk.

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The next day finds Mrs. Coulter throwing a party and Lyra serving drinks. Lord Boreal, back in his own world, is in attendance. Lyra is being watched carefully by a woman in a pink dress, whom Lord Boreal identifies as a journalist. The journalist is kind to Lyra and asks her to sit and talk with her. She tells Lyra that Mrs. Coulter is a Gobbler and explains that the “GOB” stands for General Oblation Board. The journalist is then escorted out by Lord Boreal before she can reveal any more. She is forcibly put into a car and Lord Boreal climbs in after her. She begs for him not to hurt her, but he crushes her butterfly daemon and the woman slumps down dead next to him. Lyra takes advantage of the distraction to race back to her room to get the alethiometer, climb out of the window, down a fire escape, and run away as fast as she can.

Image courtesy of HBO and BBC One

We then see the missing children being escorted away, presumably towards transportation to the North. Roger asks one of the women where they are going, and he is ominously told they are going on a trip to the North, to the best place he could possibly go.

Lyra runs until she is sure that they have not been followed. It is now dark, and Pan says that there is no use in searching for Roger in the dark. Pan hears something and goes to investigate, despite Lyra’s protests that he shouldn’t. Pan approaches what looks to be another daemon when we see a shadow drop down behind Lyra. She is suddenly grabbed by someone from behind, and the episode is left on that dramatic cliffhanger.

His Dark Materials airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

Lynette has been a lifelong nerd and over the last few years finally learned to let her freak flag fly. She likes to dip her toe into almost every fandom but is particularly passionate about Supernatural, Stranger Things, Marvel and Disney. When she isn’t binge watching programs, she loves to swim, sing and (true to her Ravenclaw nature) read. Lynette joined the Nerds and Beyond staff in 2019 and loves sharing her nerdy knowledge with the world.

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